A good number of strikers had turned dow the opportunity to play for Barcelona for obvious reasons.
Barcelona are finding it difficult to land a striker willing to play second fiddle to the MSN. Every target Barça sporting director Robert Fernández has identified to warm the bench next season has politely refused the offer. At Camp Nou the feeling persists that some of the forwards in question have used the club’s name to further their own interests.
Fernández and Luis Enrique do face a genuine headache: Leo Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar have netted 253 goals between them in the past two seasons, leaving little room for a fourth wheel. Any incoming forward would have to accept playing only when injury rules one out, or when a rest is required.
Barcelona’s scouts have prepared plenty of dossiers, although the profile has changed a little bit. From looking for a versatile forward who can fill in across the front line, Barça are now leaning towards a goal scorer who can fill in for Luis Suárez should the Uruguayan last season’s top scorer – be unavailable.
First on the list was Nolito. Two approaches were made but Barcelona were unwilling to meet his 18 million euro release clause and the player had already opted for Manchester City, seduced by the chance to play under Pep Guardiola. Next up was French wonderkid Ousmane Dembélé, who attracted the attention of Europe’s top clubs at Rennes last season.
But Dembélé, 19, wasn’t keen on chewing bench and opted to move to Borussia Dortmund, who have been signing some of Europe’s most exciting young talent this summer.
Barcelona turned to Ángel Correa, but Atlético didn’t even pick up the phone. Thwarted by one attempt for an Atlético reserve striker, Fernández approached another: Luciano Vietto. “Surely he’ll come,” was the feeling at Camp Nou on a striker who barely featured under Diego Simeone last season. At 22, with the promise of gradually gaining more playing time, Vietto was seen as the perfect option. But he opted for Sevilla.
Kevin Gameiro, also under the contract at the Sánchez Pizjuán, has stated his preference for the Calderón. A previous move for Hatem Ben Arfa also fell through when the French winger elected to move to PSG from Nice.
And Munir? The Barcelona B forward is with the squad on their pre-season tour and conscious of the opportunity that has opened up and wants to stay.“What I want is to play,” he said this week. But later he added that it all depends on the club. If he receives no guarantees about his future “then we’ll have to have a look at it,” he said.
But before that can happen Barcelona need to sign a striker and that is looking more and more difficult with the shadow of the MSN looming over any potential new arrival.